Featured Vehicles / Hot Rod Power Tour

Check Out the Retractable Roof on this 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire Daytona (& Its Supercharged 289 V8!)

Anyone need to transport an alpaca? (Image/OnAllCylinders)

We’ve said it before, but one of the biggest reasons we love larger regional car shows is because we get to see stuff we don’t ordinarily find at local events.

And that’s exactly the case with the 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire Daytona we spotted at the 2021 Hot Rod Power Tour as it stopped in Dayton, Ohio.

Update! We sat down with the Stude’s owner for a podcast episode. You can see all of our OnAllCylinders podcasts here, or you can also catch this one on the Summit Racing YouTube Channel.

What is a 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire Daytona?

Whew. That’s a mouthful. So let’s dissect that name a bit.

It starts with the trusty second-gen Studebaker Lark station wagon. To become a Wagonaire, Stude’s designers modified the top half of the body to create a more squared off profile that would accommodate the aforementioned sliding retractable roof. Then, this particular Wagonaire is the performance variant, dubbed the Daytona.

So yeah, you’ll find emblems for Studebaker (grille), Lark (front fender) , Wagonaire (tailgate), and Daytona (rear fender) all placed strategically around the outside of this vehicle—it was the perfect car if you really wanted to mess with the valet’s head.

(Image/SenseiAlan, Creative Commons)

A Wagon with a Sliding Retractable Roof?

Need more space in the back to haul a contrabass saxophone or a Saturn V model? Simply unlock the Wagonaire’s sliding roof panel, manually push it forward to rest above the front seats, and lock it into place.

It’s a pretty genius idea that would be seen again, decades later on the 2004 and 2005 GMC Envoy XUV.

For even more room, the Stude’s rear window rolls down into the tailgate. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Problem was, it wasn’t perfect. Subpar sealing and clogged drain tubes lead to leaks. In fact, Studebaker faced enough customer complaints that it began offering a fixed-roof Wagonaire option.

So alas, the Wagonaire was not the runaway success that the faltering Studebaker needed to survive, and the car was only produced from 1963 to the end of the entire Studebaker line in 1966.

Alright, Let’s Talk About Its Supercharged V8 Engine

As mentioned earlier, this Wagonaire is a rare Daytona performance variant, which meant it came with one of Studebaker’s V8 engines.

Under the hood of this one resides a 289 cubic inch Studebaker R2 “Jet Thrust” V8, complete with a Paxton SN-60 supercharger. All told, the Studebaker R2 V8 was good for about 280 horsepower—which was really impressive for its day.

Besides the awesome stock ribbed valve covers, you can see the belt-drive Paxton supercharger up front feeding the 289’s Carter carburetor. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

While this Stude’s owner wasn’t around, we talked to some of his friends. They told us that he has owned it for a long time, and that it’s no stranger to the drag strip. As proof, they showed us an old photograph of the Wagonaire racing alongside a 1957 Chevy Bel Air at Kil-Kare Raceway just outside of Dayton.

Super, super cool.

These “friends” also suggested that the owner wouldn’t mind if we took the Stude’s keys and went out for a spin—but their suspicious grins hinted at a dubious offer!

We’re told this photograph was taken sometime during 1971. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

The Original Hot Rod Wagon?

If you asked us to guess which automaker put out a supercharged, 280 hp station wagon back in the early 1960s, we wouldn’t have said Studebaker.

In fact, we would’ve gone through Detroit, Kenosha, and probably Stuttgart, Coventry, or Maranello before landing in South Bend.

But what’s perhaps more impressive than the supercharged V8 is that, even as the sun was setting on Studebaker, the company was still coming up with bold ideas like the Wagonaire’s retractable roof.

Going further, maybe we should thank Studebaker for setting the stage for all the performance wagons that would come later? Like the Magnum SRT-8 or, more accurately, the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon and its supercharged 6.2L LSA engine.

The last year for the Wagonaire was 1966, which was the last year for all Studebaker production, as the company shuttered its operations. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Regardless, we’re glad these larger regional shows like Goodguys and the Hot Rod Power Tour continue to roll on, as we are always blown away (supercharger pun!) by what we come across.

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3 Comments

  1. Malcolm Berry says:

    What a surprise when I saw my 1963 Wagonaire featured on Facebook today. I’m sorry I wasn’t near my car. I would have loved to tell you the story about it.

    I’m looking forward to corresponding with you.

    Malcolm~~

  2. Bill Gronemeier says:

    What a neat, unique hot rod wagon. I saw that wagon growing up and rode in it recently. Its a 5 speed manual trans car and it can get a little loose hitting 2nd gear. Cool wagon.

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